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December 10, 2010

Warming to Sparks of Change for 3000s

Sdavidek_gray A veteran of 26 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek is looking toward a different future in his IT career. He’s the IT operations and Systems Administrator for the City of Sparks, Nev. But sometime in 2012 the last HP 3000 app will step out of production mode at the city that’s not far from Reno. During that same year, Davidek will take another step, into the chair of president for the one remaining HP user group, Connect. He’s been serving on the group’s board of directors since 2008, volunteered in Encompass user group advocacy programs before then, and even worked in Interex local and regional user groups for 20 years, until the group went bankrupt in 2005.

    Davidek is managing HP 3000s which were supposed to be offline already, but homesteading has a way of occupying more of the future than managers expect. For all of the devotion and experience he’s developed for the server, however, it’s time for his shop — where he started as an operator and now manages a staff that handles two 3000s, hundreds of PCs and several dozen Windows servers — to move into the world of Windows. Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks; he chuckled repeatedly even while telling stories of revisions of management plans. It’s the sound of humor you would expect from a man who’s an Honor Society Order of the Arrow award winner as a Boy Scout leader, the kind of leadership that seemed to fit into a story of transition, told by a pro whose first HP IT chapters were written on Series III HP 3000s.

You work in IT at a US city that’s cut back in a big way. How did that affect moving  away from the HP 3000?

Just before they started cutting things we signed on the dotted line for a new financial system and get us off the HP 3000. Not that we wanted to, but we had to move forward. 

   We went live with that part of the project last December. After our HP 3000 died in April, they decided this July to give us a little money to get the payroll system moved off, too.

The payroll 3000 died? What happened?

I just came in one day and the system board died on the 969. We’d moved that 3000 in here in September of ‘96. We’re at 7.0 MPE/iX. Every time we tried 7.5 we had issues with it not reading the second CPU in it.

Did these failures present the first reason to move away?

We were supposed to be off the 3000 five years ago. We did another upgrade to our financials, Bi-Tech, something we’ve been running for 18 years. We realized after we got going the system couldn’t handle the city’s finances.

    Back then the finance department decided they wanted a new system that didn’t involve IT. But what they picked out couldn’t handle the job of General Ledger. We ended up going back to the 3000 after being off it for a year with GL. It was still running payroll.

  As HP was slowly ramping down, we realized that we needed a more modern system. Plus, finances are really important to the city. Bi-Tech quit developing on us 10 years ago. They were like others; if HP’s not going to support the 3000, they weren’t going to move forward.  

   The system to handle the courts was running on the 3000, too. It was written in-house in the late ‘70s. We turned that system off six months ago. They put the new cases on the new system and just kept the open cases on the 3000 until they got them all. They access that 3000 almost daily, just for history. They’ll do that until we’re off the 3000s totally — there’s a 928 development machine — about 18 months from now. 

Has that development staff been able to embrace the new Windows environment?

In Nevada’s economy, we’ve laid off a lot of people. The city went from 760 to 450 people. IT was literally cut in half. We’ve got one person who’s been with the city for 32 years, and he was the development support person for years. We have a newer person who’s the reason we’re using SQL Server databases.
Why did you decide to turn away from developing your own systems, or modernize the systems you already had?

We realized the resources weren’t here. I talked to people in the user groups, my connections from Interex and Encompass and now and Connect. It’s one of those things where we just had to bite the bullet and move away. They all pretty much said the same thing.

Has training in the new systems presented problems?

Not really. But let me tell you, the new financials — I’m still trying to figure out how to pay bills part of the time. I’m learning things about finances that I never had to do before for my bills in IT.

10:36 AM in Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink

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